Sunday, December 16, 2012

season preview: Maryland

Maryland Terrapins
Media prediction: 6th of 12

Last season:

Record: 17-15 (6-10); ACC 8 seed
Postseason: none
KenPom: 134th of 345

Returning scoring: 36.7%
Returning rebounding: 46.2%
Returning assists: 44.8%

2011-2012 all-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: G Terrell Stoglin
3rd team: none
HM: none
Defensive: none
Rookie: G Nick Faust

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Pe'Shon Howard (Jr.)
SG: Nick Faust (So.)
SF: Dez Wells (So.)
PF: James Padgett (Sr.)
C: Alex Len (So.)


G Seth Allen (Fr.)
F Charles Mitchell (Fr.)
F Jake Layman (Fr.)
C Shaquille Cleare (Fr.)
G Logan Aronhalt (Sr.)

Coach: Mark Turgeon (2nd season)

ACC schedule:

Twice: Boston College, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Once: Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State

Maryland is sort of the mystery meat of this year's season so far.  At 9-1, they're improved over last year, and haven't lost to anyone they shouldn't.  Then again, they haven't played anyone they should lose to.  Except for Kentucky to start the season, a game they only lost by three points; then again, nobody's real sure what to expect out of Kentucky, either.

Whatever the quality of this year's Terps team, they're finding their way with a whole new offensive model from last year.  Last year's model involved ballhoggin' Terrell Stoglin, and nobody else.  This year the shots are a little bit better distributed.  Maryland uses a 10-man rotation that sort of involves their holdovers from last year in the starting lineup and most of their freshman (plus one grad-student transfer) off the bench.  Not having Stoglin around has allowed the talents of big center Alex Len to start showing through.  Len is a full 7'1" and one of the best big men in the league, a guy who can score easily and has already blocked a whopping 26 shots.

Maryland's size isn't just about Len, though.  Maryland in fact is one of the biggest teams in the country; KenPom's "effective height" rating places them 3rd in the nation.  Nick Faust and Dez Wells are big, long wingmen that can shoot (mostly; Faust isn't real effective from three) and rebound some, and Maryland gets a good, steady veteran presence from senior power forward James Padgett, who's shooting .651 to start the season.  Rounding out the starting lineup is point guard Pe'Shon Howard, returning from a knee injury that cost him a huge chunk of last year.  Howard's shooting has been garbage so far this year, but he more than makes up for it by not doing it much.  It's rare to find someone with an O-rating over 100 with as poor a FG% as Howard has, but he achieves that with sparkling free-throw shooting and being an outstanding facilitator; an assist rate of 36.7% is 38th in the country and leads to an excellent A/T ratio of 3.2/1.

The bench squad is four frosh and an old guy.  The old guy is Albany transfer Logan Aronholt, your prototypical off-the-bench 3-shooting white guy.  An early season percentage of .581 in that regard will eventually come out of the stratosphere, but right now he and fellow reserve guard Seth Allen, who runs the point in Howard's absence, are the only long-range threats on the roster.  Everyone else brought off the bench is a big.  Jake Layman is tall and skinny as hell, listed at 6'8", 205.  Charles Mitchell is a true power forward and an outstanding rebounder.  Shaquille Cleare backs up Len at center; Cleare's minutes are limited a bit by fouls and the fact that he backs up Alex Len, but he's a load to handle on the offensive end.  When his defense catches up he'll provide a lot of insurance against Len's eventual professional departure.

What Maryland will do in the ACC season might be a little unpredictable, and is not well-informed by recent games against the likes of UMES and Monmouth.  But basketball is a big mans' game, and Maryland is a big, big team.  That should certainly help.  One thing it's helped with already: two-point defense, at which Maryland is so far the best team in the coutnry, allowing two-point shooting of 35.4%.  Without fouling much, too.  Not surprising, since the dreckish teams that Maryland has played so far have a tendency to struggle in recruiting talented bigs.  They could stand to take care of the ball better, and when you turn the ball over too much against this schedule, the ACC will probably eat you up.  But that size should be a great equalizer, and this team will be a tough out.  Their awful OOC schedule has given them no chances to make a tournament statement, so they'll really have to blow away the conference to get a dance invite; they could end up like VT did a few years ago, with a 10-6 record in the conference (or whatever they'll do in 18 games) and a ticket to the NIT.

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